Friday, March 13, 1992

Nothing dramatically bad or dangerously destructive occurred today. I don't believe in Friday the 13th but the students all do. There was a VCR in the room today and everybody wondered if we were going to watch Jason. I need to get this machine out of the front of the room. 19 days to go. We had a rather dramatic evening last night after I wrote the previous summary. We received two new foster children last night and we had a very depressing introduction to some of the miseries of the world. They were abandoned by their mother and were filthy, emaciated and unable to perform any age-appropriate behaviors (like sitting up at age 1, speaking at age 2). So although I had planned to go on to Chapter 5 I gave a lecture on not making fatal choices. When we were younger, mistakes could be recovered from. Sometimes people died from drunken car accidents or drugs, but if we made errors we could usually change our ways. Today's youth face challenges they cannot easily escape from. There are no ex-crack users, except the ones who are dead. There are few ex-gang members, except those who are paralyzed or dead. It is either a 100% or a zero.

I did the same thing in every class, though I went at it a little differently in each one. I had 4 rapt classrooms. Even the stupid little troublemakers listened in attention. (Though something very weird that occurred was in Hour 1 when someone talked about even grandmothers using crack and Steven and Robert could not get out of the idea about grandmothers being in wheelchairs "Did you ever see a grandmother in a wheelchair out trying to score some crack?" Tameitha attempted to eliminate their of vision and they became even more belligerent.) My approach was to discuss the kids in as graphic detail as I could, emphasizing the neglect abuse and anguish they had suffered already in their short lives and how much more was likely. I was surprised just how sympathetic they were. They never laughed at the misery (as they often do) and they were irritated that the kids were black. Gratifying, as it seems sometimes they have become immune to the pain that is such a part of inner-city lives. Anyway, we discussed their pain and then went on the pain that is endemic, and then to crack. We agreed that their mother is probably a crack user and is so messed up that she can't get her life together enough to figure out which end is up. That's the most optimistic explanation. Alternatives are much much worse.

From mom using crack we made a list of the things they derive pleasure from, ranging from food and sleep to skating, TV, alcohol, and sex. The point I was attempting to convey was that when you choose crack you forgo all other pleasures. I put a big X through the list on the board, emphasizing over and over that this is a trade that cannot ever be undone. I also stressed that the mother in question was probably sitting in a high school class 5 or 6 years ago, never suspecting what was in store for her. She never knew that she would have 4 kids she can't take care of, that she would be so stoned that she would let those kids become filthy and hungry and stupid. There are no second chances, no parole for these people. They do it until they die, which isn't very long.

Only hour 5 was unresponsive, which surprised me. I guess the other kids, being in greater danger, are more aware, whereas these guys are too cool (though they seem more stupid, not ignorant but stupid). I don't think I behaved any differently toward them, or said anything different, but they did nothing. Except, surprisingly, Nigeria, who was the most responsive person during the day. She has a sister who is a social worker and said she would like to do that as well. Unfortunately, she is going to have to learn to read and write before she has any chance of that.

Hour 6 got the abbreviated version of the story, because I wanted them to get to the computer lab and get writing. They did, which is always nice to see. Some have written something of consequence (and I encourage them onward). But I don't understand how the foolish kids (Horace, Tom) can or will catch on to what is important. Their ego is all. They are more concerned with establishing that relationship every day of who is the boss and how much swearing I will accept. Others are doing so little that it hardly seems worth the effort. I am sure it will get better if I keep on their backs, but I may leave before I finish. Then what?

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